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Transforming Allston interchange — the question is how

The Massachusetts Turnpike along the Charles in Allston as seen in June.Blake Nissen for the Boston Globe

Rebuilding in 1950s-era style would be a missed opportunity

As we learned from our own experience with the Big Dig, Boston deserves better than an elevated relic dividing our communities (“The ‘transformational’ Allston Multimodal project,” Opinion, Sept. 8). Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack’s op-ed urging advocates to “focus on the needs, not the wants” of the project design perplexingly signals that an all at-grade solution to replacing the outdated I-90 viaduct is merely a petulant want.

Over the past five years, a diverse array of stakeholders has united in support of an all at-grade approach that would tear down the viaduct, create new transportation mobility options, and activate and restore an underutilized section of the Charles River. We do not need to rebuild I-90 as an elevated highway, and this vision can be realized for less cost and take less time to construct.


This project will shape Boston for the next century. Replacing a 60-year-old elevated highway with a new and bigger viaduct would be rebuilding 1950s-era roadway infrastructure, and it would be a missed opportunity. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation instead should choose a truly transformational at-grade alternative that will advance accessibility, equity, and sustainability.

Douglas M. McGarrah


The writer is board chair of A Better City.

How about a little more ‘get what you want’ and a little less ‘same old song’?

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack’s rock and roll metaphor for the Allston Multimodal project — “You can’t always get what you want” — should instead be Rod Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells a Story.” The photo accompanying her Sept. 8 op-ed echoes the Four Tops’ “It’s the Same Old Song,” in which West Station is exiled to the 2030s and Grand Junction is derailed.

A temporary station could be built quickly at a heavily subsidized cost (courtesy of Harvard and Boston University) once the final Massachusetts Turnpike realignment plan is chosen. The Grand Junction track could be modified to add passenger shuttle service that would (a) mitigate Kendall Square’s Red Line reliance and (b) connect North Station with the future East-West rail to Worcester and Springfield at a potential cost of under $100 million.


The pandemic will pass. Boston and Cambridge need road and rail improvements, without which they will become second-tier global business centers. The alternative, with future generations ruing this realignment as a relic of 1950s highway planning, would be a step backward.

Jay Donahue


Global Office Link


Highway focus does a disservice to cause of environmental justice

As a member of the Allston I-90 Multimodal Task Force, I agree with Stephanie Pollack that the Commonwealth needs this transformative project built, but what’s missing is mention of the project’s purpose.

I’ve heard the transportation secretary say, when referencing the governor, that Massachusetts' biggest transportation needs are tackling congestion and emissions. Yet by focusing on the needs of the highway, MassDOT’s plan means that people from across the Commonwealth coming into Boston will need to drive, and sit in traffic.

If they need to take transit to Kendall Square, they’ll have to wait, like they’ve been waiting on the Green Line Extension more than 15 years after the Big Dig was completed.

When they’re on the river park, they’ll breathe in toxic brake dust, and just to get to the park, they will fear being killed while biking with their children across multiple lanes of on-ramp and off-ramp traffic.

Instead of getting what the Commonwealth needs, the secretary seems to say “we get what we get.” We’re certainly not getting what we deserve, especially for Allston’s environmental justice community, disadvantaged by the turnpike for decades.


The Secretary might as well reference another famous line, from Joni Mitchell: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” — or in this case, another highway.

Galen Mook


The writer is executive director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition.

A better corridor would be one with fewer roadway lanes

As local legislators representing commuters who rely on the transportation corridor that includes I-90, we are excited about the opportunity presented by the Allston Multimodal project.

We very much appreciate the difficulty Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack faces in choosing a project design, particularly in the “throat” area, where all the design elements converge.

We believe the key to an affordable and versatile corridor can be achieved, and affordably, by reducing the number of roadway lanes.

This lane reduction would reduce costs and construction time and allow for improved transit and bicycle and pedestrian traffic, more park space, and better flood control.

By continuing with 12 lanes of traffic, the decade-long project timeline would reduce both commuter rail service and vehicle capacity on the Worcester Line. What’s more, the planned road capacity, while accommodating rush hour traffic, would go largely unused for as many 20 hours a day. Congestion could be addressed more sustainably and equitably by congestion pricing, more frequent transit, and better biking infrastructure.

Rail improvements, including West Station, and a bike and pedestrian connection to Commonwealth Avenue at Boston University are integral. These should be completed as part of this project.


Susan Albright


Newton City Council

John Gannon

Councilor at large

Watertown Town Council

This letter was cosigned by Newton City Councilors Alicia Bowman, Deb Crossley, Andreae Downs, Bill Humphrey, Andrea Kelley, Alison Leary, Brenda Noel, and Emily Norton.